Fuel cells have significant potential to improve energy utilization efficiency, but remain quite expensive due to the cost of key components, including the membrane of PEM fuel cells, the catalyst, and the bipolar plates. Due to the cost and significance of these items, extensive research has been devoted to reducing cost and improving the quality and performance of these components. By contrast, seals, sealants, and adhesives play a more mundane role in the overall performance of fuel cells, and yet the failure of these materials can lead to reduced system efficiency, system failure, or even safety concerns. Less attention has been given to the performance and durability of these products, yet as improvements in other fuel cell components are made, these seals are becoming a more critical link in the long term performance of fuel cells. This review paper highlights the importance and background of fuel cell seals; discusses the chemical, thermal, and mechanical environments to which fuel cell seals are subjected; and suggests design and testing protocol improvements that may lead to improved fuel cell system performance.

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